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Plants vs. Animals: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 13, 2023
Plants are autotrophic, generally stationary organisms that produce their own food via photosynthesis, while animals are typically mobile, heterotrophic organisms that consume food for energy.

Key Differences

Plants, utilizing chlorophyll, harness sunlight through a remarkable process known as photosynthesis, converting light energy into chemical energy to fabricate their own nourishment. In contrast, animals lack the ability to photosynthesize and consequently, seek out and consume food, deriving energy through various metabolic pathways that break down ingested sustenance.
The structural differences between plants and animals are evident, where plants display a cell wall made of cellulose, providing rigidity and structure to their form. Animals, devoid of a cell wall, showcase a more flexible cell membrane, allowing for a variety of forms, structures, and consequently, a broad range of mobility, from swimming to flying.
In reproductive terms, plants often exhibit a variety of methods, ranging from asexual reproduction, such as budding or vegetative propagation, to sexual reproduction via pollination and seed formation. Divergently, animals predominantly engage in sexual reproduction, with a few species also capable of asexual reproduction through mechanisms like budding or parthenogenesis.
Plants typically exhibit a sedentary lifestyle, firmly rooted in one place for most, if not all, of their life cycle, primarily adapting to their environment by modulating growth patterns. Contrarily, animals are widely known for their mobility, utilizing varied means of movement to navigate, explore, and adapt to their surroundings, seeking out food, shelter, and mates actively.
Plants and animals interact with and depend on each other and the environment in multifaceted ways, creating a balance within ecosystems. Plants often provide food and oxygen for animals, whereas animals can assist in plant reproduction through pollination and seed dispersal, demonstrating a mutualistic relationship between the two kingdoms.

Comparison Chart

Nutritional Method

Typically autotrophic (photosynthetic)
Heterotrophic (consume food)


Generally stationary
Typically capable of movement

Cellular Structure

Cells contain a rigid cell wall
Cells do not have a cell wall

Reproductive Strategies

Employ both sexual and asexual reproduction
Mainly utilize sexual reproduction


Limited responsiveness to stimuli
Exhibit higher responsiveness and adaptability

Plants and Animals Definitions


Plants are primarily autotrophic organisms that utilize photosynthesis to produce food.
The plants in my garden convert sunlight into energy through the process of photosynthesis.


Animals predominantly reproduce sexually, although a few can reproduce asexually.
Most animals, such as lions, reproduce by sexual means, involving the fusion of gametes.


Plants can reproduce through various methods, including both sexual and asexual means.
Some plants produce offspring through vegetative propagation, creating new plants from various plant parts.


Animals are heterotrophic organisms, requiring to consume organic substances for sustenance.
The animals in the savannah hunt or forage for their food, obtaining energy by consuming other organisms.


Plants exhibit a sedentary lifestyle, often firmly rooted in one location.
The oak tree, like many plants, remains in the same spot for its entire life, growing tall and sturdy.


Animals exhibit diverse mobility, moving in various manners such as walking, flying, or swimming.
Animals, like birds, use their wings to traverse vast distances, exploring varied habitats.


Plants play a crucial role in ecosystems, providing oxygen and serving as a food source for other organisms.
The lush plants in the rainforest contribute to the ecosystem by providing food and oxygen to numerous species.


Animals generally possess a high degree of sensitivity, responding to environmental stimuli in complex ways.
Animals like dogs exhibit acute responsiveness, reacting to various stimuli like sound and scent.


Plants possess cell walls made of cellulose, which provide structure and support.
The sturdy stems of plants are supported by rigid cell walls, enabling them to reach towards the sunlight.


Animals can be found in diverse habitats, from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems.
Animals like turtles inhabit diverse ecosystems, navigating through both land and sea.


Any of various photosynthetic, eukaryotic, multicellular organisms of the kingdom Plantae characteristically containing chloroplasts, having cell walls made of cellulose, producing embryos, and lacking the power of locomotion. Plants include trees, bushes, herbs, ferns, mosses, and certain green algae.


Any of numerous multicellular eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Metazoa (or Animalia) that ingest food rather than manufacturing it themselves and are usually able to move about during at least part of their life cycle. Sponges, jellyfishes, flatworms, mollusks, arthropods, and vertebrates are animals.


A plant having no permanent woody stem; an herb.


Do all plants reproduce using seeds?

No, plants can reproduce through seeds, spores, and vegetative propagation.

Are all animals capable of movement?

Most animals move, but some, like sponges, are sessile (non-moving) after their larval stage.

Do animals have cell walls?

No, unlike plants, animal cells do not have cell walls.

What is a defining characteristic of plants?

The ability to photosynthesize, utilizing sunlight to produce food.

Can animals produce their own food?

No, animals obtain food by consuming other organisms.

How do plants contribute to the environment?

Plants produce oxygen, provide food and habitats for animals, and help prevent soil erosion.

Why are animals essential to ecosystems?

Animals help regulate populations, disperse seeds, pollinate plants, and provide various other ecosystem services.

Can plants feel pain?

Plants lack a nervous system, so they do not feel pain as animals do, but they can respond to stimuli.

Can animals exhibit intelligent behavior?

Yes, various animals showcase intelligent behaviors and problem-solving abilities.

What is a common way plants adapt to their environment?

Through modifying structures like leaves, stems, and roots to suit their surroundings.

How do animals adapt to their environment?

Animals adapt through behavioral changes, physical modifications, and, over time, evolutionary shifts.

How do animals obtain their energy?

By consuming food, either plants, other animals, or both.

How do animals grow?

Animals grow by enlarging their cells and, in many cases, by adding new ones through cell division.

Do animals have a role in plant reproduction?

Yes, animals like bees, bats, and birds can be pollinators, helping plants reproduce.

What is the primary source of energy for plants?

Sunlight, utilized through photosynthesis.

Are all plants immobile?

Typically, yes. However, some plants exhibit limited movement, like the closing of Venus flytraps.

What is the lifecycle of a typical plant?

Seed germination, growth (vegetative stage), reproduction (flowering), and seed production.

Can plants defend themselves?

Yes, plants have defense mechanisms, such as thorns, toxins, or the ability to release deterrent chemicals.

Are there plants that consume animals?

Yes, carnivorous plants, like the Venus flytrap, consume small animals (e.g., insects).

Do all animals reproduce sexually?

While many animals reproduce sexually, some can reproduce asexually as well.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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